Sports Journalism Blog

Posted on March 24th, 2017 in 2017 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving by reaharri | Tags: , , , ,

By Ryan Gregory

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — The Florida Gators may not have been in first place following Thursday’s events at the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships, but they are far from underperforming. Following the sole event Wednesday, the 800-yard freestyle relay, the Gators sat in third place with 32 points. Thursday, Florida moved into second place, bringing its point total to 138.5. The Gators trail only Texas’ staggering 225.5 points.

The Gators were paced by a spirited effort from junior Caeleb Dressel. The Olympic Gold Medalist continued his winning ways. The two-time NCAA champion of the 50-yard freestyle added to his trophy case again Thursday. His 18.23 second swim was a record at the Indiana University Natatorium. Dressel was unable to match his 18.20 effort he posted in last year’s NCAA championship, which was an NCAA and U.S. Open record. The win earned Florida 20 points.

Dressel’s contributions did not end with his victory in the 50-yard freestyle. He was also the lead man for Florida’s 200-meter freestyle relay. His hot start was noteworthy, and set the Gators up well for their eventual second-place finish. Florida fell just short of defeating Texas, which had a few Olympians of their own on their relay team. Dressel’s impact was felt on the leaderboard as he was responsible for 76 of Florida’s 138.5 points earned through Thursday.

“He’s on another level, that guy,” said teammate Mark Szaranek on Dressel. “To go 18.2 time after time is amazing. He’s just a great guy as well.”

Szaranek had a great showing himself in the 200-yard IM. He finished with a time of 1:40.67 to tie Will Licon of Texas. Licon, a senior, won last year’s 200-yard IM. As for Szaranek, he finished sixth last year, an impressive turn of events for the Florida junior. His 18.5 points were a significant addition to Florida’s total as the Gators tried to keep pace with Texas.

“I was really disappointed last year with the outcome of the season,” said Szaranek. “I found a few things I had to work on. I’ve focused on what I need to do to make myself fast instead of just trying to be fast. I set goals and accomplished these goals along the way.”

The rest of the Gators hope to follow the upward swing in performance as Szaranek has, and perform to a peak level as Dressel has. Florida is out to avenge a third-place overall finish in last year’s NCAA championship, falling short of Texas and California. Catching up to Texas with its 87-point lead is a daunting task, but there still much swimming to be done. The battle for first continues Friday.

Szaranek is back in action in the 400-yard IM. Dressel will also be competing in the 100-yard butterfly and will anchor the 200-yard medley relay team. The opportunity is there for the Gator stars to score vital points for their team. Thursday was a step on the journey to dethrone Texas, but Friday requires a leap for Florida to give Texas a fight for the national championship.